Are you flexible?
For most folks, stretching is one of those things often left out of fitness. There are thousands of books and articles on stretching that lead you to believe that stretching is the same for everyone.
For any individual, range of motion (ROM) for a particular activity is what’s important. If you are training for a specific sport you need to have a little more ROM than the sport requires. If you are trying to lift your grandchild in the air, the same principle applies.
Your nervous systems’ comfort level in a given position determines ROM.
Take doing the splits.
Do you cringe when you think about them? If you can’t do them it’s because your nervous system is telling you to STOP at a certain point. The nervous system controls the stretch reflex and it’s telling you that you don’t have the strength or stability to go beyond a certain point.
Here’s another example: frozen shoulder. If you injure your shoulder and don’t use it for some time, it will lose much of its ROM. The muscles around the shoulder become weak. They can’t control basic movements like up or down.
As you recover your strength in the shoulder, you begin to recover its ROM. When your nervous system perceives that a stretch is safe, it won’t impede its reflexive contraction to stop your range.
There is a thing called “resting tension” in your muscles. It is controlled by muscle spindles. Muscle spindles are sensory receptors within the muscle that detect changes in muscle length. Sitting in a chair for an hour or two is enough time to shorten and tighten your hamstrings and change your resting muscle tension.
Anyone that has taken an airplane ride can attest to this.
The responses of muscle spindles to changes in length, play an important role in muscle contraction. This is the mechanism that makes you feel tight. Lifestyle, work, injury and exercise can all change and alter your body in its own unique way. It’s these personal lifestyle differences that make your imbalances different from everyone.
This is one of the reasons your workout protocol is unique to you!
Flexibility, range of motion, and muscle tension are relative to the activity you’re trying to perform.
In my next blog I'll look at ways to stretch that incorporate your unique situation.
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